Members of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce gathered in a conference room at Aol’s Dulles operations center on Friday morning to learn more about the internet’s next growth phase—networking billions of DVRs, appliances, thermostats and other “things” together on the grid.
The innovation promises to usher in conveniences and automation unimagined just a few years ago. It also increases challenges.
Little known to the attendees, at that same time the “Internet of Things” was being used to deploy a massive cyberattack that locked up scores of web-based services, including giants like Netflix and Twitter, including at the data centers just down the street. Tens of millions of IP addresses managed by Dyn, one of the companies that runs the internet‘s domain name system, were targeted in the attack.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating the distributed denial-of-service attack that involved directing hijacked devices to flood servers with junk data so that legitimate traffic couldn’t get through.
By Tuesday, one Chinese company was in the spotlight for failing to implement tighter security on its customers’ webcams, allowing the hackers to use them as tools in the attack. In most cases, the internet-connected devices are small, don’t have much computer power, and they don’t include many, or any, security features.
By 2020, more than 5 billion devices are expected to be connected online. That’s probably good news for Loudoun’s data center alley.
“The data is going to be massive. There is no getting around that one,” said Hassane Bouhia, a corporate strategy and business development executive at Verizon.
Security and privacy were concerns raised by several in the audience during Friday’s forum.
Speakers on the panel cautioned that expectations of privacy should be low as long as people walk around with tracking devices such as phones and smart watches and post their every move on social media. But individuals should have little to worry about on the security front as long as they use common-sense precautions in their online activities, they said.
A bigger threat, they said, are the attacks organized by foreign governments—which are frequent and large scale. As solution architect at Google Loren Hudziak put it, “We have nation-states trying to hack us every single day.”
On Friday, it appears one got through.